After seeing Before I Go to Sleep I realized that four of the last five movies I’ve seen in theaters have been based off of books. I mentioned in my Gone Girl review (shameless self plug) that making movies based off of books has become increasingly popular. Gone Girl is a great example of how successful a book-to-movie adaptation can be. Before I Go to Sleep is the opposite. Now, I say that as someone who loved the book just as much as I loved Gone Girl (the book).
The basic premise of Before I Go to Sleep is that Christine Lucas is an amnesiac — she loses her memory every time she goes to sleep for an extended period of time — who wants to discover the truth of why she loses her memory. She gets told that the cause of her condition is an attack, but nobody knows who attacked her. She starts seeing Dr. Nash, who gives her a video camera to try and help with her memory. At various times, Christine will speak to the camera, telling her future self the events of that day.
I won’t make this review a complete comparison between the book and the film, but there are some big changes that need to be talked about. I think starting out with Christine knowing she was attacked takes some mystery out of the film. In the book she is told by her husband she was hit by a car and she slowly remembers the attack, adding to her distrust of Ben. Also, the decision to change her journal to a video camera is one that doesn’t payoff. In the book, each time Christine woke up and read her journal, her feelings on what was going were wonderfully described and not boring. It gave you beautiful insight to the character. In the film, each time Dr. Nash calls her and she views the camera just feels like too much of the same and too repetitive.
I don’t like how how Dr. Nash comes on to Christine, as shown in the trailer. I can see why the screenwriter/director decided to do this — to create a cloud of mystery over Dr. Nash — but any mystery about him is quickly evaporated. Maybe it would have been a good idea if they made Dr. Nash more of a shady figure. It would have added some more mystery to the movie.
There are two major problems with the film. The first is the timeline. Ben states early on that they have been married for fourteen years — since 1999. However, everything after this is too muddled. We don’t have a clear sense of when Christine was attacked or anything else, which I will avoid getting into so I don’t spoil anything. I little bit more clarity about when things happened would have gone a long way.
The next issue is the pacing. While Gone Girl was two and a half hours, it went by very fast and never felt boring. Before I Go to Sleep is a full hour shorter but is a lot slower. I never found the way Christine learns things and learns of her past to be very exciting. Sometimes it felt as if they revealed too much too early and thus you’re kind of stuck waiting for something exciting to happen, but it never really delivers until the end.
The twist was a major surprise to the audience at my theater, who let out a collective gasp during one particular moment. Some reviewers believe that the film is too predictable if you have seen other thriller/mystery films before. I disagree. I think that they did a good job of keeping the audience in the dark and that the twist was handled well.
Ultimately, Before I Go to Sleep is a film that doesn’t deliver on its interesting premise. The script leaves a lot to be desired and could have been adapted the book much better than it did. There is still enjoyment to be found in the film — it’s an okay movie at best. But I’d recommend waiting until it pops up in your closest Redbox to see it.
Now, the book. Go read it! It’s amazing and the film doesn’t do it justice.